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A Good Hearty Feed

A fleeting thought. The tail of a tangent. A crumb of curiosity. Let them slip through your fingers and you’ll never know where they could have taken you. Nurture them with time, and the possibilities are infinite.

Investing in your imagination is one of the best things you can gift to yourself. But finding the time—even an hour here and there—to expand your mind, fuel your creativity and sate your curiosity often plays second fiddle to the daily pressures of family, work, friends and cleaning the bathroom.

Just imagine what might happen if you were to allow yourself a whole day. A full ten hours to meander the limits of your imagination. Sounds good doesn’t it?

At creative content studio Stranger Collective, based in the creative community of Falmouth, UK, where I’m very happy to call myself a copywriter, we have a unique way of stoking the fires of inspiration, information and inventiveness. And it’s an ethos woven into the very fabric of how we work.

We call it Feeding. The idea is that everyone in our small agency is able to take regular time—the core team get 10 hours every month—from their client work, away from their desks, to spend a proportion of their time on ‘Feeding’ their minds.

From esoteric explorations into dark matter and string theory, to more palpable pastimes like attending a conference or connecting with a potential creative collaborator, the opportunities are endless.

Exploring, experiencing, experimenting. Aside from keeping us excited about coming back to our desks to create, Feeding gives us all an opportunity to add new strings to our bows, bolstering our skills, and helping us get our heads around new things that are happening in the industry. It also means we have way more fodder to call upon in brainstorms and client meetings—and we’re pretty handy to have at dinner parties too.

Over the three years we’ve been doing this and two hundred or more Feeds, there’s been everything from mastering turn tables, slam poetry performances and forays into mind reading—we’ve even navigated towns with cake recipes (there was some method to that, honestly).

By keeping our minds nourished, we do better work. Simple as that.

By keeping our minds nourished, we do better work. Simple as that. It gives us a brand new perspectives, helping us to spark new ideas and craft great words. But we don’t just keep it to ourselves. That would be missing a trick. We share what we learn too, with the team and the wider world in our treasure trove of a Feed library. Sometimes I just head there to read something to get the grey matter moving.

One of my all time favourite Feed happenings was when we decided to take our concept to the wider world, in an en-masse Feed. We rounded up 100 willing people on a boat, took them out to sea, and bought some amazing speakers to share their insights on what we can learn from the grey economy (think illegal camel milk trading and Somali pirates), how to write a sitcom and what a research magician can offer Olympic athletes. We called the event ‘Raft—a lifeboat in a sea of grey thinking’, and you can watch what happened here.

So, in the spirit of sharing, I’ve asked some of the Stranger team to share what Feeding means to them…

Clare, Partner at Stranger Collective: “For me, Feeding is about maximising the random in my life. It’s taken a while, but recently I’ve realised that it’s almost always the unplanned, unexpected and unexplainable that provide the greatest source of inspiration. Those moments where you find yourself somewhere you didn’t anticipate open up fresh new perspectives. And it doesn’t have to be somewhere physically different—maximising the random can just as easily be done sat in front of your laptop, or on your commute, or in front of the TV as it can in a gallery, at a cinema or in the wilds. But the one place it absolutely can’t be done is with your head buried in client work.

I’ve realised that it’s almost always the unplanned, unexpected and unexplainable that provide the greatest source of inspiration.

You need to step away, to look outside your usual frame of reference and push yourself to find and try new things. Whether you have the luxury of building a whole day into your working schedule, or if you only have a lunch hour, unleash your curiosity and see where it takes you. It’s a mentality that has led me to Feed on string theory, to go in search of the beast of Bodmin Moor and to get to know Jung a little better. All of which resulted in better thinking, writing and creating in my day job.

Because what you get back from these explorations is very seldom what you go into it looking for. That’s the true nature of random and when you know that seeking it out has really worked. In building connections between the random and your every day you are forced to challenge what you do, bringing fresh insight to your work, your life and your creative practice.

And who doesn’t love a challenge?”

Helen Gilchrist, Partner: “Feeding means so much on so many different levels, from creative experimentation to swatting up on a new skill. But I guess for me, the essence of Feeding is about getting out there—both literally and metaphorically.

It’s seen me wandering through dark unhinged worlds exploring immersive theatre and fragmented narratives with Punchdrunk; heaving ropes and spinning yarns on tall ship in Falmouth bay with the New Dawn Traders; discovering new levels of personalised experiential marketing at the Vision conference; and speaking to an inspiring bunch of creatives at YCN’s ‘In Conversation With…’ in London. But even if I’m sitting still (usually in my favourite coffee shop), Feeding still gets me ‘out there’ —whether it’s on the internet exploring things like creative risk taking, listening to podcasts or reaching out to connect with people for new projects. Contributing to The Challenger’s Almanac, following creative crumbs for a storytelling experiment and roping in some of the world’s best illustrators to create Christmas cards for the charity ShelterBox are all things I’ve done on Feed time.

Whatever and however you do it, getting out there helps find refreshing new approaches and directions when you’re back ‘in there’ at work. I’ve definitely found it invigorates my ideas with client meetings and project work, as well as keeping me motivated, fired up and evolving in my own creative progression.”

Amie, Writer and Creative Assistant: “Chaos theory, collage, performance poetry, sci-fi and shadow poetry. The context of a Feed might seem far-fetched, but you’d be surprised how much chaos theory can teach you about staying ahead of the creative curve. Or how shadow puppetry can make you choose your words more carefully.

It’s in these twists and turns and dips and dives into new and challenging things that I find ideas and new paths to trace. And it’s these things that give my work pace and variation.

Feeding is the space to explore, grow and indulge in something a little different—keeping my curiosity alive and my mind whirring.”

Caitlin, Commercial Director: “I’m terrible at turning off. Giving my self a chance to stop, breathe, think. Feeding should be about going beyond my role. An opportunity to break out of the marketing, client, business development bubble I’ve existed in for the past seven years. I started with baby steps. My first real feed was on exploring personas. This was something I needed for a client and was still heavily in the marketing sphere, but I allowed myself the time to really explore it, analyse it, and write about it. I got to know the subject far deeper than if I’d just written a blog post. I picked concepts apart, learned from the past, went off on tangents. And at the end I felt like I’d genuinely learned something new.”

Feeding is like dim sum for the soul.

Anna, Creative Director: “Feeding gives me the clear white space I need. Feeding allows me think freely about leftfield ideas that inspire my writing. Feeding forces me out into the world, like a gale force wind behind me. I return windswept, red-cheeked and invigorated. Feeding is like dim sum for the soul. Feeding so far has been about curating, creating, listening and editing. It happened up a hill, by a river, on a rooftop, in my head.”

Header image by Dustin Lee on Unsplash.

Nicola Robey

Nicola Robey is a writer and producer at Stranger Collective, with a thirst for the brave, bold and dastardly different. Stranger Collective is a Creative Content Studio based in Falmouth, that makes words count.